Night fighter rear gun: was it worth it

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by tomo pauk, May 12, 2008.

  1. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    Fellas,
    Was the rear-firing gun of (german mostly) night-fighters of any use? Did it really shot down any planes?
     
  2. freebird

    freebird Active Member

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    Good question. I'm interested to hear what the experts say...
     
  3. Erich

    Erich the old Sage
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    YES, more later .............. several Mosquito NF's were shot down, a P-61 was hit and trashed by rear gunner in a He 177 and at least 2 were junked by the twin .30cals of the Ju 87D NSGr craft in 45.

    obviously I am not just talking of German NF rear defenses but all German craft with pop guns did do damage as protection devices
     
  4. Haztoys

    Haztoys Member

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    I would think that any gun at the rear would get the attacker all worked up once you start to see the flashes of flame coming out of the plane your trying to down...I'm sure the rear gunners did not down alot of plnes ...But I bet they sure keep some planes from being downed..
     
  5. pbfoot

    pbfoot Active Member

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    I might think the gunners role might be also an extra set of eyes
     
  6. buzzard

    buzzard Member

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    I guess that having extra eyes and guns in a nightfighter will come in handy once in a while, but the inevitable performance penalty may out-weigh such an 'advantage' The Mosquito NF certainly seemed to be able to cope without it...

    When you compare the P-61 with the aerodynamically cleaner F-15 Reporter variant, you can't help but wonder if the P-61 might have benefited by the reduction of weight and drag that the quad .50 turret and gunner necessarily imposed upon the AC. The 'fifties' seem redundant as offensive weapons. Really, if you can't knock down an AC with the concentrated firepower of 4 20mm cannons...

    It's a question of priorities.

    JL

    EDIT: Does anyone know if the He-219 A-6 (the planned stripped-down 'Mosquito-hunter' version) retained the defensive gunner?
     
  7. pbfoot

    pbfoot Active Member

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    I think the xtra set of eyes would be very beneficial especially with the spotty sevicability record of the radars
     
  8. Erich

    Erich the old Sage
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    in the ETO the upper .50 cal guns were removed from the P-61 this is fact in the 9th AF from previous interviews I have done over many years .

    there never was an He 219A-6 mosquito hunter put into production.

    back to German NF's yes an extra pair of eyes was essential to confirm the downing of RAF heavies, lets look at reality shall we, as the German NF's were being hampered by fule and in some cases marauding Mossie NF's it was of high value to have a rear gunner if not firing watching the Mossie in turn make their set up for rear attack(s) ` result to contact the German pilot to where to make his turns
     
  9. kool kitty89

    kool kitty89 Well-Known Member

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    Just like the Bf 110, a single (or even twin) RCMG is't worth the performance penalty, an the extra set of eyes wasnt too useful for a day fighter...
     
  10. buzzard

    buzzard Member

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    Erich,

    Yes, I know the top turret was removed in the ETO (due to buffeting problems I think. It was restored in later models). My point was that it was designed into the AC primarily as a defensive measure. Or so it seems, given the offensive power of the cannons.

    All else being equal, more wetted area=more drag, and hence lower performance. The P-61 had a cavernous fuselage compared to the Reporter, and while the sheer bulk of the early AI equipment may have necessitated a somewhat larger fuselage than the Reporter had, the turret and gunner accomodation were mainly responsible for the P-61's extra bulk. I'm well aware that I have the benefit of hindsight when second-guessing those who laid out the specs for the 'Widow, but I still think it would have made a better nightfighter sans gunner/turret.

    I'm aware that the He-219 A-6 was never produced. that's why I wrote 'planned'...I was simply wondering if anyone had the specs to those plans.

    My argument is not, that extra eyes and guns are useless. Of course they are, but all combat aircraft are compromises...You can't load up on armor, guns, and people without paying a performance penalty. You have to decide if the risks out-weigh the benefits, and in the case of NF vs NF combat, I believe that superior performance and agility will save more lives (and allow more kills) than a rear gunner. The German nightfighter gunners may have shot down or drove off a few Mossies, but I think most of the Nachtjaeger pilots would have gladly left them on the ground in exchange for Mosquito-like performance.

    JL
     
  11. Erich

    Erich the old Sage
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    to your last paragraph, every Nachtjagd pilot I interviewed was thankful for his rear gunner. early war these were the radio operators as well so yes needed, the guns and ammo was not a concern to the Luftwaffe night force during the war. in fact several Ju 88G-6 rear gunners shot down RAF 4 engine bombers with the single MG 131 due to the jamming or running out of ammo for the single/twin Schräge Musik position and in one case 3 were shot down on one night by one crew due to the Ju 88G-6 not having any fixed upward firing weapons the forward four 2cm weapons were out of ammo so he let the experienced Bördfunker fire away with the Mg 131 while the rear gunner in this case moved from his position to help the other radar operator (yes there were two) put out a radio fire.
     
  12. Soundbreaker Welch?

    Soundbreaker Welch? Active Member

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    The P-61 was a great fighter, I guess you could argue the P-38 as a nightfighter did alright, and it didn't have a rear gunner.
     
  13. Erich

    Erich the old Sage
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    as for the P-38 it was the day fighter used in the evening role, I have mixed feelings about the P-61 personally think it was a dog but I feel the same way about the He 219A as well
     
  14. pbfoot

    pbfoot Active Member

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    The thing is nightfighter did not for the most part have to worry about performance to any great degree . The attacks were made with stealth . I'm going to state most bombers were not even aware they were umder attack until it occured . Everything I've read indicates radar was u/s about 30% of the time and rarely worked as asvertised or to it's true potential. It wasn't solid state but tubes with balky connections enhanced by the mode of use such bouncing on take off rough air etc . The gunner was the perfect back up
     
  15. Kruska

    Kruska Member

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    A rear gunner was surely an asset in regards to additional “eyes”. As an attack/defensive advantage I would doubt very much the overall contribution, especially in regards to a 7.92mm caliber). I would even tend to say that a couple of thousand rear gunners (equivalent to a or two Luftwaffe field brigades) could have contributed more in the ground combat role than in that of a sporadically used a/c crewmember.

    Since the LW didn’t have a single “ultimate” night fighter such as a Mossie or the unfortunately never into service brought He 219 or Ta-154, they had to rely on bombers (since they didn’t have enough fighters) pressed into Nachtjagd duties which automatically brought their existing crews along (since no one would have volunteered for an infantry role instead). The LW bombers (incl. Ju87’s) all originate from a viewpoint or strategy that dated back to the middle/end 1930’s were fighters were not considered to be such a thread due to less difference in speed and low caliber armament and as such making sense for a defensive capability of a LW bomber with his “poor” (7.92mm) defensive armament. – Not comparable at all with the defensive capability of a Lancaster or B-17, B-24 etc.

    If I am not mistaken, the RAF gave up very fast on the Paul Defiant once they had enough Spits and Mossies.

    Regards
    Kruska
     
  16. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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    for what it is worth, the top ace in the ETO at the time, Bud Mahurin, was shot down by a tail gunner - it was a Do 217, believed to be a NJG ship, near Chartres..on 27 March 1944
     
  17. Kruska

    Kruska Member

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    Hello drgondog,

    One of my relatives was flying for KG 4. According to him: Only undetermined/unstable attackers could be fended off, not even taking the probability of a gunner being able to knock out an attacking a/c into account. If an attacker was hit, it was regarded as a lucky combined effort of multiple gunners defending a group of bombers.
    The best chance to survive in his He111 was the fact that this a/c could take a hell of a punch or damage.
    Off course the downing of an attacker by one or many gunners cannot be out ruled as facts demonstrate this, but these are cases of luck, individual accounts and not based on a solid defensive account. Just look at the devastating losses during the BoB, despite partial fighter cover.

    It is not that the LW bombers were of a weak structure or had “Glass cockpits”, it was there totally inadequate defensive armament that made most of its missions a flight without return ticket.

    Regards
    Kruska
     
  18. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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    No real argument from me. Even a B-17 designed with many more defensive capabilities was at risk from a single heavily armed fighter.

    BTW- Lucky hit or not, he was with three other P-47s in his flight - all crowding to get shots ot the D0 217 which they did shoot down but would have preferred to pass and keep Mahurin.

    Mahurin also was shot down in Korea and spent nearly three years in China
     
  19. Milos Sijacki

    Milos Sijacki Member

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    Actually, I don't know about that. Never gave it any thought to be quite honest.
    I think that the rear gunner could have been useful in some situations. Sorry for not being able to offer any more information. Pozdrav.
     
  20. buzzard

    buzzard Member

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    I'm certainly not going to dismiss the views of the Nachtjag pilots interviewed by Erich--They were there, I was not...

    That said, I still think that the penalties imposed by gunners and their equipment, while undoubtably handy in certain circumstances, were an unnecessary impediment to the task at hand. The role of a fighter, night-flying or otherwise, is to shoot down the enemy. Anything that adds to the offensive capability of a fighter enhances its ability to perform that task...and superior performance is the most useful capability of all. That stealth was the method of choice in the final attack run, does not alter the fact that high performance allows one to make more attacks. And of equal importance, avoid being attacked yourself.

    The Luftwaffe nightfighters were all adaptations of AC designed for other purposes. That they were as successful as they were, is a testament to German ingenuity, but they also had the inestimable advantage of the rigid dogma of Bomber Command. The near-religious RAF devotion to numbers and bomb load gave the Nachtjag a shooting gallery of poorly-armed bombers with minimal fighter support. It is this, not the quality of their AC, that allowed the Luftwaffe to exact such a terrible toll. Had the bombers been fitted with heavily-armed ventral turrets, and been accompanied by large numbers of hi-performance escort fighters (All within the means of the RAF during the Nachtjagdgeschwader's most successful period) things would have been very different.

    That even the Luftwaffe recognized the primacy of performance over defensive capability in the nightfighter role, is demonstrated by the nature of the final nightfighter designs. Where are the dorsal/rear-gunners in the Me262, Do335, and Ta154 nachtjager variants? And while the situation certainly altered with the advent of the AAM age, where were the defensive gunners in the early incarnations of the AC that supplanted the nightfighter; the all-weather fighter?

    JL
     
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